Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Teaching Can Be Gratifying

I’ve just finished another week of teaching at a Youth with a Mission base—this time in Puerto Rico. I’ve been teaching at this particular base for seven years now, and each time has been a wonderful experience. Of course, it makes all the difference when you have a roomful of students who actually want to learn something.

I regularly teach Biblical Worldview, Church History, and American History at the Puerto Rican base. I’ve also taught the first two at another YWAM base in Guadalajara, Mexico. Wherever there is an open door, I am willing to go. If the Lord can use my words, it is worth the “trouble.”

God is trying to raise up a generation that takes His call to discipleship seriously. It’s only by answering this call that we can make any changes in our culture and, ultimately, to our politics.  Changed hearts lead to changed lives, which lead to a more Biblical culture and government.

That hope keeps me teaching.

Heart-to-Heart

No pictures. No cartoons. Just a heart-to-heart today.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. First and foremost, I want my life to reflect His nature and character. Why? Because He truly did redeem me from a pit of my own making, and showed me His mercy (unmerited forgiveness) and grace (the power to do what is right).

Politics and government are important to me, but only in the context of wanting to ensure that they manifest Biblical truths. I grew up in a home that was not overtly political, but what little politics that did exist were Democratic. In my mind, JFK was a luminary probably chosen by God. LBJ was good simply because he was the president, and no president could possibly be a bad person.

I remember a conversation I had with a guy in my dorm during my freshman year of college. It was probably the first political conversation of any substance I had with anyone. I considered myself a Democrat by heredity, I guess. But as I told him what I believed about certain things, he just looked at me and said something to the effect, “No, those views make you a conservative. You’re really a Republican.” It was disconcerting, in some ways. I had to come to the realization that I wasn’t really what I thought I was, and that someone else could see it more clearly than I could.

As I matured, and tried to figure out how a Christian should view politics, I continued to analyze. When the 1976 election came, I thought I might support Jimmy Carter. After all, he was an avowed evangelical Christian, and bumper stickers on the cars of other Christian friends showed that they were supporting him. I probably would have voted for Carter—I really wanted to at that point—but then I read his campaign autobiography called Why Not the Best?

It was an illuminating read. Carter wrote a lot of things that made me pause, but the clincher was when he related that one of his favorite theologians was Paul Tillich. I had happened upon some of Tillich’s works during college, and knew where he was coming from: no bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave; no literal heaven or hell. That gave me more than merely a pause. At that point, I realized just where Carter was theologically, and it wasn’t real Christianity. I also began to see that theological liberalism went hand-in-glove with political liberalism. The connection was being made for the first time in my mind. I had to vote for Ford.

My politics have been conservative ever since, but I am not your typical conservative. I don’t start with “What do I believe about politics?” My starting point is “What do I believe about the nature and character of God, and how does that affect my understanding of politics and government?” Ever since that first revelation about the connection between theological and political liberalism, I have sought to know the first principles, gleaned from the Scriptures, that should inform everything else in my life.

That’s why today, when I see evangelicals give themselves over to political liberalism, I feel this pain inside. To me, that is such a glaring inconsistency with Biblical truth that I have a hard time grasping why someone who says that Christ is the reason for everything would put their political faith in a system that makes the government into a god.

Evangelicals who vote for liberal candidates, be they Democrat or Republican, are voting in favor of:

  • Government-sanctioned abortion;
  • The promotion of the homosexual lifestyle (or at least its acceptance by society);
  • Governmental intrusion into the lives of individuals and families (violating a Biblical principle of self-government, which the Lord uses to lead us to maturity in decisionmaking);
  • Attacks on Biblical morality generally;
  • Not allowing one’s faith to be manifested in public (think of Christian teachers who are muzzled in government-sponsored schools);
  • Planned government control of the economy (which violates a Biblical principle of property—which I call “God’s school of personal accountability” for individuals).

I could go on, but I’ll stop the list there.

One of the main reasons I’ve heard for why a Christian should support liberal policies is that we should be for social justice. I am all for justice—God’s justice. But the phrase “social justice” is code for socialism. That’s where that language originated. And socialism, despite what some think, is anti-Christian. It is not promoted in the Scriptures. I would ask those who think that it may be sanctioned there to go into my category called “Biblical Principles” and read some of my postings on that subject.

My goal in life at this point (and I believe it originates in God’s heart, not mine) is to point Christians to the Biblical principles that should be the grid through which we examine everything in this world. I take very seriously the admonition in Romans 12:2, which states, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

If you are a Christian and have been sympathizing and/or voting with the liberal philosophy of politics, I entreat you to go back to the Scriptures and continue to receive the renewal of the mind that the Lord wants to give.

I know this was a long posting, but if even one person leaves the liberal path because of it, I will consider it worthwhile.

Reasons to Give Praise

I know some Christians are feeling pretty low these days as they survey the cultural and political landscape. I guess it’s possible that my blog could contribute to that since I pinpoint the problems we are facing.

Yet I always want to keep reminding us that despite what you see happening around you, God works in your life and in the life of this nation.

The other day, as I was praying, I felt the need to meditate on just what I have to be thankful for. This list is really quite long, but it can be summarized in this way:

  • God has provided a loving and forgiving wife who has stayed with me for 37 years.
  • I have two children who are now grown and establishing their own families. My son recently chose to be baptized as a public confession of his faith. My daughter is expecting her fourth child [we love the three boys, but are hoping for a girl this time—if only for variety ;-)].
  • The “job” I now have as a professor and department chair is not a job in the classic sense; rather, it is a ministry that brings great joy as I help educate others to serve Him.
  • In spite of economic downturns overall, we have a nice roof over our heads and are not in imminent danger of losing it.
  • As I get older, knowledge of the Lord and how He wants His character expressed through me becomes increasingly important. He has shown me how hypocrisy is a spiritual wasteland.

The more I reflect on God and His goodness, the more I have reasons to praise. So today, Lord, I simply want to thank you for your mercy on an oftentimes foolish and impetuous person. Thank you for never giving up on me. In return, I will not give up on You.

Christian Coalition: A Tale Well Told

I rarely have two book reviews the same week, but I wanted to alert you to this new book by Joel Vaughan that traces the history of the organization called the Christian Coalition. The title is accurate: it rose and it fell.

I was drawn to the book not only because I am acquainted with Joel, but also because I used to be a Christian Coalition county director back in the early 1990s, when I taught at Indiana Wesleyan University. Then, when I moved to Regent University, I was just down the street, more or less, from the Coalition’s headquarters, and a number of my students in the master’s program in government worked there. I attended the annual Road to Victory conferences in Washington, DC. So I remember the glory years, but also the not-so-glorious ones.

There are so many tell-all books in the market that I wondered how Joel was going to handle this one. He was with the Coalition almost from the start, and was one of the last to leave before it rapidly disintegrated. How could he tell the tale well, being honest about its demise without being censorious?

Well, I believe he has accomplished that nearly impossible task. It is evident from the first pages that he shared the vision of Christians influencing public policy and making their voice heard in politics. He speaks of the sincere, genuine believers who wanted to make a difference, and he points to the many ways Christian Coalition achieved its goals during the 1990s. It’s obvious he loved being a part of it.

When he turns to the downfall, he does go into the problems in a straightforward manner, clearly showing why it fell. Yet even as he spells out the issues and talks about the people who made bad decisions, he does so in a thoroughly Christian way. This is not a bitter memoir; instead, it carries a tone of sadness—an appropriate tone because what happened was a tragedy. A Christian voice in politics became a mere shadow of what it once had been.

I appreciate the Christian spirit in the book. In effect, Joel Vaughan has provided a case study of the highs and lows of Christian political involvement. We can read this book and learn significant lessons about how we should go about our involvement, as well as how to avoid the common errors: overextending ourselves financially or losing the humble servant heart.

Next year, I plan to use this book in a new course I’ll be teaching called Biblical Worldview and Public Policy. It will be a valuable guide for this new generation of Christian leaders. I’m hoping this account of a high-profile Christian political organization will help them carry the work forward and do so in the right spirit.

Book Recommendation: The Shack

On my main website, I have annotated lists of recommended books (check those out if you haven’t yet). Every so often, I like to use this blog to let you know what’s worth reading.

William P. Young’s The Shack has been out now for over a year. I had heard of it previously, knew it was a bestseller, but also that some people considered it controversial. Busy as I am, and needing to read other books for courses, etc., I didn’t rush to buy it. This past week, I finally made that decision. It was a good decision.

The writing is top-rate. The opening chapters, which tell of a terrible family tragedy, grip you from the start. Then a note comes from God (hang with me here) inviting Mack Philips, who has lost his youngest daughter to a murderer, to return to the scene of the murder.

Once he does, the whole tenor of the book changes. Young leads us from the details of everyday life into a world where spiritual realities overwhelm the senses. Along the way, Mack argues with God (portrayed quite creatively by the author), has to learn what forgiveness and relationship are all about, and emerges a transformed person. This is not formulaic. It is designed to make you think. You may disagree with some of his doctrinal points or his portrayals, but any disagreements I had are merely quibbles in comparison with the truths that come alive in his pages. Any book that stirs within the reader the desire to see God face-to-face has a lot to commend it.

Character, plot, style—they all come together here realistically (even in the fantasy-like portions) and persuasively. If a book points people to the essence of the Christian faith, and does so in a manner that makes one think anew about the nature of the God-man relationship, it is worth your time to read.

Palin & the Pundits

Sarah Palin Announcing Her Resignation as Governor of Alaska

Sarah Palin Announcing Her Resignation as Governor of Alaska

The political world was rocked last Friday by Sarah Palin’s announcement that not only would she not run again for governor of Alaska, but that she would be stepping down from the office in just a few weeks, turning the government over to the lieutenant governor.

The political pundits have run wild. They are positively beside themselves trying to figure it out. Some have described her as nutty, others as bizarre in her decisionmaking, and some have even delved into the morass of speculation over some wrongdoing on her part. Some leftist blogs are sure she is under federal investigation for something, and the other shoe is going to fall at any moment—or at least that is their hope.

Most pundits are just puzzled by this unorthodox step. Many of them have even taken her to task for the style of the speech itself. It was too rambling, they say; not well-scripted; not very smooth for someone who wants to be president. I listened to the speech. She was speaking from notes, not a script, and she was speaking from the heart. I liked it. Why? It was not the typical politician speech written by someone else for political effect. I liked it for the same reason others hated it—it was not Washington-speak.

Now, was her decision unorthodox? Certainly. Does it betray nuttiness or is it bizarre? Hardly.

Let’s back up for a moment. I’ve watched the political scene for nearly 40 years now. In all that time, despite the media attacks upon Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and countless other conservatives or Republicans, I’ve never witnessed anything as vicious as what has happened to Palin over the past 10 months. Yes, all politicians have to be aware that they will be scrutinized, but the arrows aimed at her have been more deadly than any I’ve ever seen.

Reagan was called lazy, a grade-B actor, etc. He was accused of throwing kids and the elderly out on the streets to die. Yet most of that could be seen for what it was—pure political posturing. Bush, the Left says, should be hauled up before a world court to be tried as a war criminal. Most people see the absurdity in that. Neither Reagan nor Bush, though, have had to put with the kinds of vicious smears Palin has endured.

Right from the start, she was referred to as trailer park trash, intimations were made that her son was really her grandson, and that she was covering for her daughter, she was ridiculed for her accent and for her less-than-Ivy-League education, and programs such as Saturday Night Live created a stereotype of her that turned her into a fuzzy-headed ditz.

Then, even after the election was over and done, the attacks continued. Political opponents filed 15 frivolous ethics charges (all rejected ultimately) that have cost her a few hundred thousand dollars to handle. As if that weren’t enough, David Letterman had the gall and lack of character to joke about her daughter being raped at a Yankees game.

Why did Palin make her decision? I’m not privy to her thoughts, but I’m giving her far more credit than the pundits. These pundits live in a bubble; for them, everything is political. That’s what drives them nuts about this. How could she do something so politically silly? How can she ever hope to run for president now? This just shows how weak she is, right?

It actually might show the opposite. It might show that in her heart there is more to life than politics. Why must someone be president or governor or senator to make a difference? I comment a lot on politics and government, and I believe Christians need to be involved. But is serving in government the be-all and end-all of life? Not at all. It’s merely one way to serve God. There are others.

I don’t know if Palin is walking away from politics or not. I will accept [as if my acceptance matters one whit] whatever direction she goes because I believe she is trying to get her priorities right. She consulted her family on this decision, and they were unanimous that she should step down. If she never runs for political office again, but raises her family to love God and is able to speak truth to the world through whatever platform she is given, that may very well be God’s will for her.

Most pundits will never grasp that. For them, the world revolves around politics. Sarah Palin is a Christian who wants to follow God’s leading. I will be interested in what the leading may be, but I’m going to allow her the space to be a follower of God and see what happens.

May the Lord give her wisdom and bless her new path, whatever that may be.

The Real Intolerance

I spent the past week dissecting homosexuality Biblically and politically, and also providing the Biblical solution for those bound by it. All too often, because Christians say homosexuality is a sin, they are accused of intolerance. Well, there are some things that are intolerable. We should never tolerate sin, no matter what form it takes.

Yet if you examine what is taking place in our society, you will notice that the real intolerance lies elsewhere.

This cartoon is closer to the reality we face. Yet we’re to continue to reach out in love to those who don’t realize they are in chains and to those who embrace their chains. That’s the Christian calling.